Ballykelly film studio ‘good news’ says MLA

Entrance to Shackleton, Ballykelly. INLV0215-413KDR
Entrance to Shackleton, Ballykelly. INLV0215-413KDR

News that a film studio is interested in buying the former Shackleton army base in Ballykelly has been given a warm welcome locally.

A film studio that has recently started renting the former military site - which is enormous at hundreds of acres and comes complete with huge hangars which once housed vast aircraft - and has now said it would like to buy the full site.

The news has been welcomed by East Londonderry MLA George Robinson, who said: “I am delighted. No matter what comes out of it, if it produces jobs and boosts the local economy right across the North West, I would have no hesitation giving it my full backing.

“Northern Ireland has seen quite an upsurge in terms of the film industry in recent times - both here locally with Game of Thrones and the Dracula film and in Belfast with Titanic Studios. It is lending itself to that sort of an industry at the moment and that is very welcome.

“It is good to hear that there is such an interest in the site.

“As far as I am concerned, from my own time working down there for so long, those hangars and facilities that exist at the site lend themselves very well to that sort of an industry.

“I remember not so long ago the First Minister Peter Robinson paid a visit to Shackleton and his eyes were almost popping out of his head when he seen the scale of the hangars.

“Let’s hope that anything that materialises from this is going to provide quality jobs for local people, obviously here in Limavady but also right across the North West.”

The base was granted to the Northern Ireland Executive by the Ministry of Defence in 2011.

Demolition work has taken place in a corner of the site that the Department of Agriculture plans to move into.

However, most of the 720 acre site is open spaces, empty offices, and aircraft hangars, and there are two airstrips.

Film producer Jo Gilbert, who brought the first films to studios in east Belfast, has now leased the Shackleton base and is turning it into production office and studio space to rent out to production teams for film and television shoots.

“We are here for the long term,” she said. “This site is absolutely tailor-made to develop a whole new centre of excellence for the media and creative industries.”